Passenger chokes Lyft driver with seatbelt

HARRIS COUNTY, TX – In a chilling incident, a Lyft driver was choked by a passenger with his own seatbelt as he drove the rider to their destination. The driver, Kehinde Ayoola, expressed uncertainty about ever returning to ride-sharing or even being comfortable driving after the traumatic experience. He called upon the ride-sharing service provider to review and adjust its procedures to better secure drivers.

Describing the horrifying scene, Ayoola stressed, “He was trying to kill me. I thought maybe I’m dying. I said okay, let me just fight for my life.” The passenger, named Ramiro Vella, has been charged with Aggravated Assault related to the incident.

Noticing Vella’s strange behavior when picking him up from a hospital, Ayoola was reassured by a security guard that the passenger was okay. However, once Vella was on board, he began responding to himself and then seized Ayoola’s seatbelt to choke him while they were traveling at 65 mph on the highway.

While still driving, Ayoola felt his life draining away as he was choked harshly, compelling him to pry the seatbelt off his neck. However, Vella proceeded to put him in a chokehold using his arm.

According to the investigators, after Ayoola managed to stop the car, Vella damaged the vehicle and attempted to trespass into a nearby house. Vella’s activities were reported to 911 by the homeowner, and he was subsequently taken into custody.

Reflecting on his plight, Ayoola said, “I just thank God. It’s a miracle from God that I am alive.” He hopes this incident would push ride-sharing services to reconsider their policies, especially regarding passengers directed by hospitals.